Election Day Slam
GOP House races go negative (again) before today's run-offs
By Richard Whittaker,
9:30AM, Tue. Apr. 13, 2010
Judging by the campaign websites for Republican state rep wannabes Larry Gonzales and Paul Workman, you'd think they'd never go negative. But with primary run-offs today, the contenders for House Districts 47 and 52 respectively threw some mud via cable TV over the weekend.
Annoyingly, we can't bring you these ads by the magic of the Internet because neither campaign (while happy to buy air time) has put them online. It's really a shame when candidates aren't proud of their best work.
South-western Travis County Republicans will be waiting tonight for the results of the rubber match between developer Workman and attorney Holly Turner. Workman bought some cable time to get down in the weeds over the weekend: After a brief flirtation with a confusing attack on her campaign finances, he went back to his carpetbagger meme against former Fort Worth resident Turner.
To be fair, Turner has done her fair share of attack ad work, forcing Workman to produce paperwork to prove that he doesn't employ undocumented workers. But she showed remarkable chutzpah for claiming she still had the moral high ground because Workman went negative first.
Not to be outdone, up in HD52 former Capitol staffer Gonzales continued his fight to become the GOP's sole Hispanic state rep. Over the weekend he went after John Gordon, the founding father of the WilCo Republicans, for getting busted for traffic violations.
The accusations have previously been found on the independent attack website The True John Gordon. From the design, it's the kind of site that would normally get written off as a hobby-horse, but most such sites don't have a PAC behind them. However, it's hard to see how many votes there are in telling people Gordon attacked a parking boot: That actually may make him a folk hero with some.
Considering both Gonzales and Workman are arguably the front runners in their races, it's odd that they felt like they had to go negative. It may add a few votes now, and they can really count: Travis County reports only 2.3% of all registered voters turned out for early voting in this election, and only a fraction of those have cast their ballot in this GOP run-off. However, negative campaigning can be a real turn-off for general election voters, who wonder what the candidate brings to the table other than a mean streak. That could really hurt Workman in the fall against Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin.
More worryingly for campaign organizers, attacking local party mainstays can alienate a lot of vital potential allies and block walkers. That's part of what crippled GOPer Bryan Daniel's HD52 campaign in 2008. When he went negative in the primary against local favorite Dee Hobbs, he may have taken the nomination, but the lack of a ground game is part of why the GOP handed the seat over to the better-organized Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock.